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As 2020 changed the shape of most (if not all) industries, the expected move into a more digital workspace came at a faster speed, with most events and conferences moving to virtual, due to the pandemic, there was less of a want and more of a need for digital connections over physical. A commonly asked question in what is now the "new normal" is how can you network effectively to secure new clients for your IP law firm virtually

The simplicity of attending online events means that most lawyers find themselves attending a plethora of virtual events; after all, it takes only a click to register and another click to join. The results can often mean leaving these events exhausted with no new leads or prospective business opportunities.

A common mistake may be someone thinking they are not visible enough and pushing to make their voices heard during the virtual events they attend. They ask a lot of questions, make remarks in the comment section, all to be visible. Yet, they end up with no results.

Networking should be about engagement, interaction and discussion, what do you bring to the table? Are you interacting or just simply speaking to be heard?

In his book, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi described networking as simply generosity. In his words, “real networking [is] about finding ways to make other people more successful…It’s a constant process of giving and receiving – of asking for and offering help”.

Also, John Naisbitt, in his book Megatrends, wrote: “Networks are people talking to each other, sharing ideas, information, and resources… The important part is not the network, the finished product, but the process of getting there – the communication that creates the linkages between people and clusters of people”.

How do you translate these ideas of networking into your next virtual event?

Essentially, networking relies on the law of reciprocity. If you do not participate in the conversation and freely give your time and resources or offer relevant referrals, you can't expect others to do the same.

Virtual Networking Events

Like every valuable life skill, networking is a skill that can be learned and mastered through practice.

You may be wondering how you can practice this skill when you're not able to attend in-person networking events. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about networking, online networking is just as important as offline, it also often opens up global connections that wouldn't otherwise be available.

It's good to think of networking as being any time you meet with another person in a business capacity. This could be in-person, on social media, in virtual events, or via email!

Since you never really know who needs IP services, and you shouldn’t assume someone may understand the ways you could help them, it is good to approach most people you interact with, within a work environment as someone who could be a potential client.

In addition, you can also take a narrower approach. Focus on your niche, is there something that makes you stand out? It could be your type of client, your unique skill set or sector focus... It's important to ask yourself, what type of clients are you searching for? Try to be very specific about this. Where could you connect with them? Use Linkedin’s search function and platforms like Event Brite and to strategically find events where your type of clients will be in attendance.

How do you make the most of these events?

Audio Business Card

Your audio business card is your elevator speech, but for virtual events. It is a short response to the question, “Could you kindly introduce yourself?”

This can be an easy way to stand out in itself, as the majority of people don’t know how to properly articulate their key focus and service benefits. They ramble something along the lines of “I’m an IP lawyer”. and with more than 1.5 million people in Europe that can also say this, this doesn't feel unique or memorable. your introduction is where you need to stand out, make yourself memorable, confident and approachable. A great introduction should answer the following questions:

  • Who am I? Where do I work, study, live?

  • What do I do? What are my client focus points, where do I stand out

  • Who are my ideal clients? What does my future client base look like?

Virtual Networking Best Practices

Ironically, networking is less about you but more about others. To get the best result, connect with people on an emotional level. Be present, respectful and engaged, give your full attention when someone else speaks.

When you actually take the time to properly listen to others, they tend to naturally like you as a result it also helps to build trust in you.

Listening is a skill that can be learned and, when used effectively, creates a relationship with the speaker that can morph into business.

Follow Up

After connecting with a person at a virtual event or on social media, the most crucial aspect of building a network with that person is to keep the connection, this is as easy as just following up. Invite them to a one-on-one meeting to show you are interested in learning more about their needs and how you could potentially work together. Following up means keeping in touch in meaningful ways that will benefit the person. Introduce them to a potential client for their business, provide useful information to them, send an article that is of interest to them, invite them to a webinar or a virtual networking event.

Networking is not always about how someone can directly meet your needs, it is just as important to create meaningful connections that can lead to future partnerships and collaborations, these can sometimes be referrals or even just by working to build a reputation for being an understanding and caring individual, about understanding someone within your network's needs, and helping where you can, this in itself adds tremendous value.

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Conferences are often seen as mandatory events that serve little purpose than displaying the company logo to the competition. However, major IP industry conferences, such as the International Conference on Protection of Intellectual Property (ICPIP) or the Patent Information Fair & Conference 2021, provide an excellent business development opportunity, regardless of whether your target audience is actually in attendance. So let's see how you can make the most of these events!

Conferences are opportunities

Conferences and trade shows are worth only as much energy you put in the preparation and networking opportunities. Even at the most expensive events, you often see tired employees pouring coffee behind high-tech counters, but beyond that, contributing nothing to the event or the company's image. However, this is not entirely their fault as they have not been adequately trained to make the most of the opportunity. At the end of the conference, the management is saddened to find that the allocated budget has yielded nothing more than a few business cards.

In reality, most events are real sales and marketing gold mines; you just have to find ways to promote them. And for that, preparation is key.

And action!

We won't go into detail about how to set up a booth, but rather what you can do to make your event a success from a business development perspective:

Suppose there is an opportunity to give a presentation at the conference. In that case, you should do it not only because you can provide valuable insights to the attendees and network with them later but also as even a semi-professional recording can be used on your website as informative content.

● Most conferences now offer different networking opportunities, such as making a list of attendees so they can arrange to meet each other. Check this list the week before the conference (if it's not available, ask the organizers) and use LinkedIn to filter out the people you might want to meet with.

● Take your most upbeat and talkative colleagues with you. Instead of an eye-catching image, have a practical booth, which focuses on providing transparent information and offering a place to talk. But even without a stand, you can make the conference an advantageous event if you are actively networking.

● Have plenty of business cards and flyers on hand.

What to do after the conference

Many businesses close the conference on the last day - don't make this mistake! Instead, give yourself or your sales team plenty of time to follow up. Without follow-up, potential contacts may be lost from the conference, and if you don't follow up until weeks later, the other party may have already forgotten you met.

So unless you want to start the sales process from scratch, it pays to pick up the thread and write to the potential customer on LinkedIn or by email within one to three days.

A conference is a great way to do this, especially if you've given a presentation. You could start your message with "Hi Mike, I hope you're doing well! At the conference, I promised to send you my presentation on startup patent management for your team to watch. Would you be up for a coffee? One of our new services might help you with that challenge you told us about." The requester is already in the funnel, making your job much easier than starting a conversation with a stranger.

Instead of surviving the conference, take advantage of the opportunities it presents: Give a presentation, focus on networking, prepare for attendees, and organize your meetings. And the event becomes a truly effective business development weapon if you take the time to follow up afterwards (e.g., send out your presentation, organize more meetings).

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Sometimes the sales process gets off to a slow start; the customer does not seem to understand why an intellectual property service is needed. If lead qualification is inadequate, it's easy to fall into the trap of talking to a company that, for whatever reason, is not ready to buy. In this article, we will go over the 5 best practices for proper qualification.

1 - Using current customers as an example

Map the cases your existing customers have come to you with. Then, ask yourself the following questions:

● What size of business have they come to your firm?

● Who was the first point of contact?

● Did they know what service they needed?

● What was the final agreement? Did you represent them in intellectual property litigation? Or were they fresh inventors seeking assistance in filing a patent application for their first invention?

Based on your answers, you can outline the types of buyer personas you were most likely to do business with. And if the recipe has worked before, it's worth repeating before you open yourself up to new types of customers.

2 - Allow time for the qualification

In many sales organizations, the work is like an assembly line where quantity takes precedence over quality. While this may work in some cases, it is unlikely to generate high revenue in a B2B services market in an IP services environment. So, instead of targeting many customers with your services, identify those that are the best fit for your business.

3 - Use the right tools

To qualify appropriately, you need the right tools. Based on phone numbers or a website alone, you can rarely decide whether or not you should contact a company. Instead, use the tool Linkedin Sales Navigator to find decision-makers who meet all aspects of the buyer persona you have previously defined.

4 - Check the decision-makers activity

In addition to looking for a company that fits the image of a potential customer, the decision-maker must also be active on online platforms. And if they share content on social media, such as LinkedIn, you can use it not only to qualify them but also to contact them later. If pre-screening is done correctly, you have potential customers on your list that you can target with personalized messages.

5 - Continue qualification after the conversation has started

Qualifying leads is an ongoing activity - and proper pre-screening is only the first half of the job. Often, it's only after the conversation begins that you can ask the questions that will reveal whether the person you are talking to is a potential customer.

The most important questions are:

● What is the potential customer's biggest intellectual property challenge?

● What is the solution they are currently using?

● Can you offer support that will make solving the problem significantly cheaper or more efficient?

The answers to these questions are also the topics of a meaningful first phone call.

Even the most diligent qualification is no guarantee of a sure sale, but it is essential that the sales team does not spend time on leads that will not generate revenue. Therefore, proper qualification will be one of your most essential tasks whether you handle sales internally or outsource it.

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